Community Caretaking Function Justified Pat-Down Search of Apparently Drunk Man

U.S. v. Gilmore, 2015 WL 221619 (1/16/15) (Col.) (Published) (slip opinion here) - The 10th holds an officer had probable cause to believe Mr. Gilmore was a danger to himself, justifying a pat-down search that lead to the discovery of a firearm, One morning, Mr. Gilmore was mumbling to himself, apparently disoriented and staggering around a western stock show in 8 degree weather. The officers said Mr. GIlmore did not appear to recognize their presence at first. When asked what he was doing there, Mr. Gilmore looked at the officers but didn't respond. Mr. Gilmore complied when asked to put down the items in his hand. He mumbled incoherently in response to a question and did not answer whether he had a weapon. The pat-down ensued.

This was okay, says the 10th. Their community caretaking function allows officers to seize an intoxicated person if they have probable cause to believe the person is a danger to himself or others. There was such probable cause here under the totality of the circumstances, the 10th finds. (1) The officers could believe Mr. Gilmore was intoxicated given his apparent disorientation, evidenced by staggering, gazing into space and inability tor respond to simple questions. This was so despite the absence of typical alcohol consumption indicators, such as the smell of alcohol. (2) The officers reasonably believed Mr. Gilmore's perception and reaction time were impaired. (3) There was evidence the neighborhood surrounding the stock show was dangerous [gang activity, car thefts, weapon possessions]. (4) Mr. GIlmore might wander into an area of high speed traffic. (5) If Mr. Gilmore became unconscious in a remote area in the evening he could suffer serious injury or death from the colder weather, even though he was dressed warm enough at the time of the encounter. The 10th stressed its holding was "narrow" and highly fact-dependent.